Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

While the United States is the richest country in the world, in 49 of the 50 states there are no limits on how many patients corporate hospitals can assign to nurses at any one time.  Bonnie Castillo, director of health & safety at National Nurses United, the main union covering reigstered nurses, has noted, “With the boom in assembly lines during the industrial revolution, employers were able to move products faster, using less staff, padding their bottom line. As I’ve written before, we’ve all seen pop culture comedy examples of what happens next, when profit-driven corporations speed up the pace faster and faster — until a character like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times works so frantically that he falls right into the machine, getting ground up in the gears.

“Our patients are not products, and nurses are not assembly line workers — but you would not know that by the frantic pace at which our hospital employers, who currently have no repercussions for saving money by cutting corners on safe staffing, expect nurses to provide care. When we are saddled with 9 or 10 patients at once, we are not practicing at our full capacity, and the repercussions for our patients, who come to us with illnesses and injuries where every moment of attention counts, include loss of life. . .”  (see, here.) 

In the article below, a nurse in the USA outlines a day in her working life.  While the article comes from the United States, the working day it outlines is relevant to many nurses working in hospitals in New Zealand. 

by Kyu Nam

The floor is chaos.

Not enough nurses on shift. Julia* called out sick this morning and an RN from 7 West who put in for overtime ended up a no-show. Our manager isn’t around, in a meeting or at lunch after popping in at 10:00 with a dapper “hello” and calling us in for a mandatory 10:30 huddle (in the middle of our biggest medication pass) to tell us about the upcoming Christmas party. We throw each other looks when she mentions the $90 price tag to RSVP. She closes with grand rounds on “fascinating nursing research topics” that we’re all invited to; of course none of us will make it because we will be slaving away on the floor.

11:55: I’m mixing antibiotics for a patient who came in with neutropenic fever overnight. We push them over 2-5 minutes via IV because of a normal saline shortage caused by Hurricane Maria. Several weeks ago, management and infection control informed us that we had to be more sparing with the mini-bags and discontinue all “keep vein open” fluids because major Baxter facilities in Puerto Rico were knocked out by the superstorm.

I pull the antibiotics into a syringe, yellow and foaming, and my mind roves to the next items on my list: notify MD of critical lab for 7A, pull methadone for 7B, find IV pump and hang fluids for 10A, return phone call to 8A family member, find out hemodialysis slot for 8B, make sure 9A is chugging the go-lightly for her colonoscopy (and not pouring it down the toilet), fetch blanket for 9B…

“Shit. Forgot the (more…)

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Below we’re running an article on a strike that took place in Detroit in 1987.  We’re running it because of what workers here in NZ, and readers around the world, can learn from this dispute.  It’s one where the workers said a resounding “No!” to the company’s demands that they sacrifice conditions and benefits and to the union leaders whose starting point was to make concessions to the employers – and get in the way of workers being able to fight!

This strike against health care giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went against the wider trend in the US workplace at the time, which was to make concessions and not resist, a trend which is very much dominant in the New Zealand workplace thirty years later.  It was also marked by a large degree of rank-and-file control over the struggle and a continuous battle for workers to maintain this control in the face of manoeuvres by the union bureaucracy to take it over – and bring it to an end.

The BCBSM strike also won support from other workers, most particularly auto workers and a number of local officials in the auto workers’ union. 

The Spark is an American Marxist workers’ group which was active in the strike, Detroit historically being one of their main centres of activity. 

by The Spark

Thirty years ago, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went on strike. Chants of “No contract, no work!” and “Don’t get sick tonight: Blue Cross is on strike!” filled the air in downtown Detroit and at other statewide locations. The strike of approximately 4,000 workers began in September 1987, immediately preceding Labor Day. The strike was not over until winter moved in, eighty-three days later, in November.

The healthcare giant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, dominated the Michigan health care industry and controlled around 70 percent of the industry statewide at that time. It was demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, taking advantage of the fact that the new 1987 contract would now cover all four local unions in offices around Michigan in a Master Labor Agreement. The company viewed it as an opportunity to impose the worst from all of the former agreements, and then some. They were a paternalistic employer; the majority of employees were women and, like public employees, were considered lucky to have decent benefits that included time off for taking care of family needs, and health care as well. Of course, the wages were not equivalent to wages earned by manufacturing workforces that were predominately male.

In the concessionary drive, earlier unspoken agreements regarding benefits as a trade-off for wages were forgotten, as the bosses came after all they could get. Benefits were at the front of their list. Always a company that believed in the stick before the carrot, BCBSM looked to impose drastic cuts in workers’ sick time off provisions and to eliminate policies that gave women workers some needed flexibility in work start times and in taking increments of time off to attend to personal and family needs. While wages were an issue in the strike, the elimination of time-off provisions and the flexibility to be able to avoid discipline and firing while still maintaining their second job, the family, was foremost in women workers’ minds.

The largest number of workers were housed in Detroit, with almost 3,000 unionized employees and almost as many more who were salaried workers, called “exempts,” meaning they couldn’t be in the union. While the union was comprised of clerical, office and professional employees, the majority of the professionals were non-union. Many of them were not particularly well paid. But they were (more…)

Masoud Barzani

by Yassamine Mather

The Kurdish regional government (KRG) in Iraq will be holding a referendum on the issue of independence on September 25. There have been appeals for it to be delayed and the date has changed a number of times, but at the moment it looks like the vote will go ahead.

In 2014, at the time when Islamic State was gaining ground in northern Kurdistan, Kurds accused the Iraqi army of abandoning the territory lost to the jihadists. Ironically it is the ‘liberation’ of Erbil, Mosul and other northern cities that has precipitated the referendum. Last week in an interview with BBC Persian, Masoud Barzani, the president of the KRG, indicated that it will draw up the borders of a future Kurdish state if Baghdad does not accept a vote in favour of independence. However, what was significant in the BBC interview was Barzani’s insistence that (more…)

ILWU Local 10 taking part in protest against police killings of black Americans.

In New Zealand, industrial law supported by National and Labour alike bans political strikes.  Both parties are aware of the criplling effect this has on working class politics.  Without engaging in political strikes, NZ workers simply can’t press their interests as members of a global class.  And without acting as part of the global working class, workers here can’t develop a genuinely radical consciousness.

In the past, unions here did engage in political strikes.  For instance, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the early 1970s, the seafarers would take industrial action against the imperialist intervention in Vietnam on the same day that national protests against the war would take place.

In many other countries, political strikes are an important feature of working class politics and industrial action.  Below is an example from a few days ago in the United States. 

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in San Francisco have passed a motion to stop work and march on the site of a white nationalist gathering later this week.

The rally has been organised by the far-right Patriot Prayer group, whose leader Joey Gibson has a history of organising rallies attended by white nationalists and violent racists such as Jeremy Christian, the man who stabbed two men to death on a Portland MAX train as they intervened to stop him racially abusing and threatening two teenage girls.

Gibson has made pains to distance himself from more explicit neo-nazis in the fallout following the Charlottesville protests, where a white nationalist drove his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators.

However, Gibson’s sincerity has been questioned particularly has it has come to light that the Oath Keepers, a heavily-armed far-right militia composed largely of ex-military and ex-law enforcement personnel, will be providing security for the event.

To combat this, a rank-and-file union meeting of ILWU Local 10 has resolved to stop work on Saturday 26th August, the day of the rally, and march to Crissy Fields, where the rally is due to take place.

In a statement, the ILWU Local 10 declares (more…)

REPORTBACK: CHARLOTTESVILLE: August 13, 2017

by Redneck Revolt members

The situation on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia, is still developing and unstable, but a few of our Redneck Revolt members on the ground took some time to provide the following reportback. We will continue to share updates as they’re available.

For those who are still unaware, this weekend has been the largest convergence of far-right and white nationalist/white supremacist organizations in recent US history. They have descended on Charlottesville, a town of approximately 48,000 people, as a response to the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, self-described White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torchlit march on the statue, with the intention of terrorizing locals who support the statue’s removal, particularly people of color.

This weekend, the stakes were raised at an event called “Unite the Right,” organized to tie together white supremacist groups across the spectrum. Participating groups and white supremacist personalities included Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, Baked Alaska, Based Stickman, Augustus Invictus, Mike Enoch, Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan, and Nazi groups.

Locals and members of surrounding communities gathered in Charlottesville to take a stand against the “Unite the Right” rally, and defend their town from white supremacist organizing. Five Redneck Revolt branches from nearby towns have been on the ground in (more…)

Earlier this week (July 23) marked the 50th anniversary of the urban rebellion in Detroit, Michigan.  This was the era of explosions in the deprived black communities of urban America, opening with the rebellion in Harlem (New York) on the east Coast in 1964, the Watts ghetto (Los Angeles) on the west coast in 1965 and continuing in many places in between through the rest of the 1960s, with the biggest explosions coming with the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.  Below, we’re running a piece by the comrades of the US Marxist group The Spark; this was the editorial that appeared in the current round of all their fortnightly workplace bulletins. 

by The Spark

In 1965, Detroit’s then mayor declared that the revolt in Watts couldn’t happen in “his city”. In 2017, Detroit’s current mayor declared that 1967 wasn’t an uprising. But it DID happen, and it WAS an uprising, an uprising of oppressed people. Before it was over, the Detroit revolt of 1967 would become the largest of any uprising in 20th century America. It was “the fire next time” that James Baldwin had written about in 1962.

In 1967 – no matter how many marches, how many court cases, how many laws – unemployment continued. Impoverishment drained people. Cops went into neighborhoods like an occupying army. There was a vast powder keg of unmet needs and grievances.

All it took was an “ordinary” incident of (more…)

We’ve just added the US-based Labor and Working Class History Association to our list of links.  Below is an article that gives a taste of the kind of material that appears on the LAWCHA site; while the article is from 2014 and about the cops in the United States, the fundamental point is highly relevant to New Zealand too.  Go the links section on our site and click onto the LAWCHA and take a look at their site!

by Sam Mitrani

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren’t so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to (more…)